There’s just nothing else like music when it comes to bringing people together.
A quick trip to Cheltenham today happily coincided with a ukulele ‘meet’ / festival and it was, quite honestly, a bit of a heartwarmer. I’m well aware that can sound a little schmaltzy, but I mean it in the sincerest way.
All around me, people stopped to listen. More, encouraged by a charismatic front man, people actually joined in with the singing, even shuffling their feet! For one moment, there was a sense of something like harmony (unintended pun). Shoppers, Lunch breakers, stressed office workers, young mothers, ladies who lunch… just for a moment, stopped and smiled and sang.
In the wake of such tragedy; the brutal murder of the UK MP Jo Cox; and in
the midst of pre referendum bitching, there was a beautiful reminder that humanity can be bound and held by a simple and natural art.
Music has a power that transcends our differences, that bypasses our intellect and that touches our innocence.
Thank God for music.
This is NOT to be confused with the countless array of ‘adult’ colouring books that the magazine shelves of every supermarket have been flooded with. The ‘Mindful Market’ is booming and throughout this great nation, homes and offices (and, yes! Even restaurants!) are equipped with colouring pencils and pages of intricate, monochromatic, woodlands; underwater worlds with paisley patterned fish and mysterious mandalas. I’m not saying that this “in the moment” stuff doesn’t have therapeutic value… On the contrary, I think it’s an invaluable tool for relaxation and improved mental health… What I will say, is that I’m really, REALLY over the colouring thing! (I know… I’m sort of getting close to ranting now… ) But whilst we’re on the topic… those red signs, bearing a crown and the words “Keep Calm and Colour In”… Please ‘mindful market’! Give us a break!
Zentangle feels different. I like to be the one doing the designing… and it really does focus my mind on something other than the madness. (The word Zen puts me off and I normally refer to this sort of creative activity as ‘tangling’. I make cards and gift tags, incorporating words and pieces of map).
If you’ve never had a go, I really recommend just doing a Google search. It’s ever so slightly addictive and it really does give you a complete break from the world around you, as well as the stuff within.
… I guess he’s an obvious choice but I haven’t yet written anything which relates to my huge passion for art and so… to stumble down a road much travelled, I introduce Mr Vincent Van Gogh. Given that the road is now more a five lane motorway, most people know a rough outline of this incredible guy’s life so I’m not going to attempt to educate the teachers. I will however, take you (briefly) down the hard shoulder and onto a side road as I explain some of the things I love about Van Gogh.
A picture of Starry Night may be one of the most common images known to man, yet, whilst alive, Van Gogh only sold ONE painting. ONE! His famous impressionist style makes his work easy to recognise and yet, Van Gogh struggled to make any impact on the public at the time… and this, I think, was what he desired more than anything: to be able to have some impact on mankind; in his case, to be a Christ like figure in the lives of those who suffered.
It’s here that I feel so connected to Van Gogh. It’s within this shell of his essence that I see a kernel of goodness that I believe is an innate part of humanity. It might be warped in some of us, driven out of others, or just never nurtured. But generally, I see a desire to better the lives of others, in many of the people I talk to. It’s not all completely altruistic… It’s a part of that desire to make an impact. An impact on everyone, or someone or ANYone. It gives us meaning.
Van Gogh’s real passion was his desire to serve the world, to show kindness and compassion to those who suffered. When the church threw him out (when he worked as a missionary in Belgium and gave away all his possessions to the poor!) he decided to impact us by showing us beauty through his art. His passion was wild and consuming, his torment, indescribable.. But he ate, drank and breathed his art. All with a desire to make an impact.
Many of us have a mental stash of words we consider ‘beautiful’; words which may sound melodic as they roll round our mouths, hiss gently through our teeth or huff breathily in a whisper. And although not always the case, it seems only right, in the order of all things literary, that such words carry beauty in their meaning.
Giving examples of this is risky, because one person’s sense of audible beauty is very different to that of another, but I like the word ‘mellifluous’ for its melody, ‘mercurial’ for the way it curls in my mouth, and ‘simplicity’ for its gentleness. I also like the softness of ‘dissonance’, although this sits a little uncomfortably in the ‘lovely word’ camp because the slightly negative meaning isn’t reflected by the sound.
Although you might be forgiven for wondering, I really don’t mean to write An Idiot’s Guide to Phonology. Rather, I wanted to write about the sibilance in the word ‘Transience’, the loveliness of its meaning…
and the the poetic beauty of April and Cherry Blossom
and the way it makes my heart unfold
and rise to meet the brief and fragile blush of Spring’s confetti.
I wanted to write about the awe that cleans the very base of my lungs as I stand
beneath the Cherry trees and breathe air sweetened by the blooms.
The Japanese have had it right for centuries, taking the Cherry blossom, or ‘Sakura’, as a symbol of impermanence. a metaphor for the transience of life.
I wanted to write about how short life really is. How, in the context of millions of years, our lives are so small, so frail, so quick.
And I think it’s good to reflect on this. Not to dwell on it, or make morbidity our mind’s echo; but to stop every now and then and let our awareness rest on the blossom of the Cherry Tree and the beautiful fullness of its brief show.
I came across this brilliant piece of art as I was walking down one of the streets of the Gloucester Road in Bristol. The idea of The Creation of Adam has been used alongside a short poem and a dedication to the artist’s late father.